Ed Stetzer at LifeWay Research reflects on the meaning of the term, “missional,” made popular by folks in the so-called “emerging church.”
I’m not sure his post answers the questions he throws out. He references the Wikipedia definition. He says it has become “a true wiki-word.”
Practitioners, theoreticians, fans and foes are defining, defending, and dissecting it. Its blurred meaning has brought it to the point that even some of its earliest and ardent users of the term are becoming reticent to use it themselves for fear of their audience misconstruing their message.
In another article Stetzer defines it simply:
The term “missional” is simply the noun “missionary” adapted into an adjective. For example, an “adversary” is your enemy. Someone who is “adversarial” is acting like your enemy. Thus, a “missionary” is someone who acts like a missionary (for example, understands a culture, proclaims the faithful Gospel in a way that people in culture can understand, and uses parts of that culture to glorify God). A “missional church” is a church that acts like a missionary in its community.
I’m new to the term, having only recently begun to follow the “emerging church” conversation. But I’d see the meaning thus–the church (as congregation) must be engaged in the community; it isn’t just a gathering place for a morning a week, it is a place from which people are sent into the world around them. It goes forth into the community, living alongside and engaging the people in that community as fellow members of the community. It’s what we do in campus ministry–we don’t just have a place on the outside so students can “come out”; we don’t just gather students into prayer groups by themselves within; but we engage the academic community as members of that community.
This was one of the points I made in a talk I gave this past weekend. I don’t view the university as a sort of “Babylon” that we must find a way to survive in or escape from; I see it, rather, in terms of the Macedonian call Paul received. We are called into Academia, and we are called to sojourn there as Paul did, becoming all things to all people.